North Korea wants total denuclearisation, says Seoul
North Korea has expressed a desire for the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula without attaching preconditions such as the withdrawal of US troops, the South Korean president has said.
The statement, unconfirmed by North Korea, comes before a summit between the leaders of the two countries on 27 April, to be followed in May or June by a meeting between Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, and Donald Trump.
The US president on Wednesday pledged to meet Kim “in the coming weeks” but said he was prepared to walk away if the talks were not fruitful.
The key question at any summit between Trump and Kim is whether the North Korean leader is serious about dismantling his regime’s nuclear weapons, and what he would demand from the US in return.
The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, told reporters that North Korea had not “attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”
There has never been a summit between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, though Bill Clinton came close to agreeing to meet Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, in late 2000.
“As you know, I will be meeting with Kim Jong-un in the coming weeks to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” the US president told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “Hopefully that meeting will be a great success and we’re looking forward to it.”
North Korea has defended its weapons programmes, which it pursues in defiance of UN security council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived US hostility. There are 28,500 US troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war.
North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the US removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear deterrence umbrella from South Korea and Japan.
South Korea announced on Wednesday that it was considering how to convert a decades-old armistice with North Korea into a full peace agreement.
Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Moon said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement and even international aid for North Korea’s economy if it denuclearises.
Trump confirmed this week that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, had travelled to North Korea to meet Kim, paving the way for Trump to hold the summit.
The mission, which came shortly after Pompeo was nominated as secretary of state, was the highest level meeting between the two countries since 2000, when Madeleine Albright met Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, in Pyongyang. It also marked the first time Kim Jong-un had met a senior western official.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, Trump said: “We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime, whether it’s father, grandfather or son, and I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think it’s going to be successful, we won’t have it, we won’t have it. If I think that it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go.
“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting and we’ll continue what we’re doing or whatever it is that we’ll continue, but something will happen.”
Abe said no reward should be given to North Korea just because the country was responding to dialogue over its development of nuclear weapons. “Maximum pressure should be maintained,” he said.